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Holistic Help for Addiction

Noah Calling
Image by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

By Robin Mize, Biofeedback

Addiction is a dependence on a behavior or substance that a person is powerless to stop. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). There is a growing recognition that many addicts are addicted to more than one substance or process. An example of that is when the alcoholic quits drinking, they often turn to sweets, caffeine or nicotine or many things at once. Many will spend years of their life going from one thing to the next until they learn how to identify the behavior before it starts to be a problem.

Addiction is one of the most costly public health problems in the United States. It is a progressive syndrome, which means that it increases in severity over time unless it is treated. Often people don’t even recognize their issues due to it being progressive and have to hit a life crisis before they can see they have a problem. Substance abuse is characterized by frequent relapse, or return to the abused substance. Substance abusers often make repeated attempts to quit before they are successful. Many never succeed in having a somewhat normal life.

Addictive behaviors no matter what type create a great deal of stress mentally, physically and emotionally. This is why alternative therapies such as biofeedback are very helpful for the person dealing with addictions. Biofeedback is retraining the nerves and muscles creating relaxation and further personal awareness.

There is some research on line about addiction and biofeedback, but I can only go by what I have found in my practice. A person needs to be in the space of wanting to be free of their addictions. They must also be willing to visit the possibility that many of their stressors are simply bi-products of their addictions.

I have had success with helping others with tobacco, alcohol, and many eating disorders.  The thing that I love about biofeedback is it treats everyone as an individual. It works on their individual stressors specific to them. Most clients report that they are sleeping better and feel altogether more relaxed and in tune with their bodies. When a person can reduce their stress and become more aware they can grow and treat themselves better.

Robin Mize is a Certified Biofeedback and Pain Specialist and can be reached at  208/263-8846

A Different Perspective on Addictions

From Owen Marcus, Rolfer

As a Rolfer and group leader, people don’t come to me because of addictions. But in my 30 years of working with people, I’ve had many of clients who struggled with addictions. My education and experience taught me that we are all on the continuum of addiction. It is just that some of us developed behaviors further along the continuum of addictions–usually because of more trauma, less healthy options, poor role models, and poor environments.

I am speaking beyond the obvious connection between acute stress and drinking – beyond the desire to have a beer because you had a bad day. Chronic stress—or, in some cases, trauma– demands an adaptive behavior, warned Hans Styele, MD, the man who discovered stress’s impact on the body. When exposed to a stressful situation, people often create a behavior pattern that adapts to the stress. You often have no control over the stressor – you can’t run or fight. This is particularly true for children. And that leaves you with only one option: disassociation, which is the psychological term for avoidance, or pretending that what is happening is not happening.

Disassociation is the first stage of stress response. In resistance, the second stage of stress response, you adapt to the constant shock of the situation; the alarm of the first stage evolves into the stabilization of ongoing chronic stress. Your body is not designed to endure this level of stress; however, as far as your body is concerned, it’s a survival response. So during the second stage, drugs and alcohol can help calm the constant rush of adrenaline. But eventually your adrenals wear out. That’s the final stage, exhaustion.  Suddenly, substance abuse is used to keep your energy up.

Assuming that addictions are learned, why can’t they be unlearned? Assuming addictions are biochemical, why can’t the biochemistry be changed? Assuming that your environment causes addictions, why can’t you change your environment?

Stress is woven into all these causes – so learn how to not recreate it, release the stress and heal the body. While I had my clinic in Scottsdale, we ran Mindfulness Stress Reduction classes. Often in the classes, we had recovering addicts, just as I had in my private practice. They weren’t seeing us to quit their addiction; they wanted to address what set it up in the first place.

These students and clients released their stress and learned better coping skills. Actually learning how to release stress is a natural, healthy behavior. For some, it was releasing the trauma that created their PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). Look it at this way: as long you are stressed or experience life as a survival situation, the body is stressed, and it will adapt. If you need to change your environment, you do it. Unfortunately just leaving a bad situation doesn’t always end the problem–as we are seeing again with the new wave of soldiers and Marines returning from war. You can leave the stress, but you also need the stress to leave you. You need to unlearn the self-replicating stressful behavior. Once you do that, the need for your substance will decrease.

Holistic health is excellent at re-nourishing and healing the body so it is not craving harmful substances. Intellectually we may know how to stay off our “drugs of choice” but without relieving the associated stress, the difficulty remains to becoming drug free.  With support, your body is capable of amazing healing.  Each person may require a different method of support.  What becomes important is choosing to receive support to lower stress and improve your life.

Owen Marcus , Advance Certified Rolfer, www.align.org, t 208-265-8440

Addiction Recovery – Feeling In Touch With Oneself Again.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, CDT, Reiki

Addiction may seem like a strange topic for a massage therapist to address.  My first thought was “I am not a mental health counselor!”  Then I thought again.  I AM a mental health facilitator.  When a person receives a wonderful, soothing, relaxing, and purposeful massage, mental health accelerates and stress decelerates.  Massage, providing human touch so often missing for many people on a regular basis, provides nurturance, connection, a special moment in time for oneself, and all the healthy benefits to the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems of the body.  The pleasure we all feel on our skin, the body’s largest organ, cannot be understated as touch, aromatherapy, soft music, and massage oil nurtures as well all our five senses.

Alcohol addiction has affected many of the women in my family for at least three generations.  Those of us still living talk about it and fear it for ourselves as we have heard it is “hereditary” and that we who may not be addicted are “predisposed” to become addicted.  In thinking about this, I pondered a different point of view; of course from a body worker perspective, and recognized that oftentimes people under stress who make choices to smoke, drink, overeat, or use drugs may not feel totally in control of themselves.  One of my addicted family members calls her “urge” to drink the “Imp!”  “The Imp wants a beer, the Imp wants a martini . . .  .”  She has disassociated her behavior from her own feelings and placed the urge and blame on an outside force, thereby masking her own sense of self control.

I see a value in getting back in touch with our true feelings and sensitive creative selves.  This is often hard to achieve in such a fast paced, over responsible, overachieving, and under “fun related” lifestyle experience.  We put ourselves last in self care too many times.  Self control is something we all want as a “staple” in our personal psychology, yet many people who come for massage seek a “moment” of control while on the massage table—they grab at a moment of rest, a moment of connection with their friendly therapist, a moment away from all they have to think about and accomplish in their very rushed and overscheduled lives.  We need many more “moments” of self care in myriad pleasing ways to really feel we have control and are taking proper care of ourselves.

I believe when we can begin to “feel” in touch with our true selves, we begin to release our need for outside sources for comfort or for blame for our behaviors or choices.  We begin to feel the power of our innate sense of self and strive to hang on to it, develop and nurture it, and to evolve it back into optimal health.  Massage, I believe, begins the healthy process of assisting everyone to rediscover that “self” feeling and to want it more and more.

Another method I especially find useful is Energy Therapy.  Our bodies are chemistry factories and electrical factories.  Without electrical energy, signals would not be sent or received by all the operating systems of the human body.  Energy is moveable, can be felt—just recall when you have walked into a room and either felt elated by the positive feel or dejected/depressed by the heaviness.  Negative energy from lifestyle patterns can be shifted and removed from the body.  Thoughts are energy and, as well, can be shifted and moved whereby negative thought patterns can be “re-energized” to positive thought patterns.  Again, recall times when you changed the way you thought about something because new information came to you that fit you better.

I was skeptical at first about energy therapy, but after experiencing several types of energetic approaches and reading volumes of science on the subject, I recognized how much my life perspective had improved, how my needs and fears for outside comfort from addictions had diminished and how my living family members have been able to begin their healing from a lifetime expectation and fear of “predisposition.”

The human body is a miracle worker if only we support it when it needs with rest, clean water and food, understanding and self care, and get out of the way when it follows its own innate wisdom to heal us, support us, and maintain us to healthy ripe old age.

Krystle Shapiro is a licensed medical massage therapist and can be reached at 208/290-6760.

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